Remember, mourn, then organize

For feminists today, there is a before and after the Montreal massacre.

Lee Lakeman, March 1990

Today, December 6, 2007, I remember those women murdered on December 6, 1989, who dared to study engineering:

Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte


I also remember the 62 wives killed last year in Canada and the 500 Aboriginal women missing from Canada.  I remember all women, the world over, impacted by violent acts.



I mourn these realities.  I mourn for a country that removes the word “equality” from its mandate to support the actions of women’s organizations working for change.  I mourn for a world that is at war against half its population.

And I work for change, by simply telling you, dear reader, how one person can make a difference.  A former Executive Director at the Provincial Association of Transition Houses in Saskatchewan (PATHS) as part of her paid work, developed an initiative to help women find escape support in their local communities.  Since then, she has left that job, but not the work which has broadened from a Saskatchewan initiative to the world-wide Hot Peach Pages, “an international directory of abuse hotlines, shelters, refuges, crisis centres and women’s organizations, plus domestic violence information in over 75 languages.”


Now I will light a candle and place it in my front room window as my personal symbol to the world and my community.



Read articles about December 6

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(Courtesy Vancouver Rape Relief Shelter)


Iraq Unmasks the American State

Interesting analysis, this, courtesy The Business of Emotions.  Long, but well worth the read.

I was particularly interested in these points about “America’s emotional and moral malaise” before the writer launches into how the Iraq Resistance shows the American State for what it is.

America’s Emotional and Moral Malaise
The explanation of Bush’s hold on the United States developed in The Business of Emotions over the past few years, can be summarized thus:

1. Without authentic emotions, the vital connection between thinking and feeling is lost and the ability to act, morally and politically, for oneself and for others, is compromised…

2. People who lack emotional authenticity are incapable of recognizing its absence in others…

3. People who lack authentic emotions are susceptible to the predations of emotional marketers…

4. Thinking without feeling, talking without meaning…

Thanks to

Censure sets back democracy & rights for Afghanistan’s People

Does anyone get the fact that by supporting the military action in Afghanistan they are now supporting the reversal of democratic rights and freedoms?

Human Rights Watch has responded to the censure of outspoken Parliamentarian, Malalai Joya:

Afghanistan: Reinstate MP Suspended for ‘Insult’

Censure of Malalai Joya Sets Back Democracy and Rights

(New York, May 23, 2007) – The Afghan parliament should immediately reinstate Malalai Joya, a member suspended for criticizing colleagues, and revise parliamentary procedures that restrict freedom of speech, Human Rights Watch said today.

On May 21, 2007, the Lower House of the Afghan parliament voted to suspend Joya for comments she made during a television interview the previous day. It is unclear whether Joya’s suspension will run until the current parliamentary session ends in several weeks or whether she will be suspended for the remainder of her term in office, which ends in 2009. In addition to her suspension from parliament, several legislators have said that Joya could be sued for contempt in a court of law.

“Malalai Joya is a staunch defender of human rights and a powerful voice for Afghan women, and she shouldn’t have been suspended from parliament,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Joya’s comments don’t warrant the punishment she received and they certainly don’t warrant court proceedings.”

Male Military Vets Committing Sexual Assault at Alarming Rates

This is US data, but it makes one wonder how Canadian veterans fare in this regard.  Surely we are better placed to prevent such horrific statistics, by simply being a less militaristic culture than our southern neighbours. Mind you, with Harper and Hillier at the helm, we may be doomed to echo the patterns of the USians.  From AlterNet: War on Iraq:

Why Male Military Veterans Are Committing Sexual Assault at Alarming Rates

By Lucinda Marshall, AlterNet. Posted May 25, 2007.

A recent DOJ report found that vets are twice as likely to be jailed for sexual assault than non-veterans.

A recent study by the Department of Justice found that military veterans are twice as likely to be incarcerated for sexual assault than nonveterans. When asked about the finding, Margaret E. Noonan, one of the authors of the study, told the Associated Press, “We couldn’t come to any definite conclusion as to why.” The intrinsic and systemic connection between militarism and violence against women, however, makes this finding far from surprising.

Sexual violence has been a de facto weapon of war since the beginning of the patriarchal age. Raping and assaulting women is seen as a way to attack the honor of the enemy, and women have always been the spoils of war. The result is that many types of violence against women are exacerbated by militarism, including the indirect effects on civilian populations both during hostilities and after the conflict ends and soldiers go home. These include:

  • Rape/sexual assault and harassment both within the military and perpetrated on civilian populations
  • Domestic violence
  • Prostitution, pornography and trafficking
  • Honor killing

Read the rest of the article

Dispatches: Iraq: The womans story.

If I knew what to do I would embed the video here, but alas and alack, I don’t so you’ll have to click the link to see Dispatches: IraqThe womans story at Google Video.

Action: Ceasefire

From the inbox:

Prime Minister Harper,

I am deeply saddened by the news that six Canadian soldiers have died during a military offensive in Afghanistan. This brings the total number of Canadian soldiers killed to 51 since the invasion in 2001, and 43 of those deaths occurred in only the last fourteen months.

I do not support this military role for Canada, and urge your government to pursue a diplomatic solution to end the war as quickly as possible.

Add your name.

Rape of Student Activist Spoofed at UWO paper

This makes me sick.  It’s probably old news, but it’s news that shouldn’t slip by anyone.  Our culture is teaching potential journalists to belittle a serious crime.  May the young woman and her friends be safe and strong and may the young men learn to show more respect to women.

Here are some press releases to get you up to speed on some of the

scary stuff that’s going down right now on the UWO campus — and the

Miss G__ Project is at the front lines of the battle (which, by the

way, we’re totally winning 😉 , as one of our most prominent members,

Jenna Owsianik, was directly targeted in this attack.You can take immediate action by writing letters to the Editor-in-Chief of the Gazette Ian Van Den Hurk at, the UWO Students’ Council President Fab Dolan at, theUWO President and Vice-Chancellor Paul Davenport, at,and UWO Equity Services at

Thank you for your time and support, and we appreciate your help in

passing this information on to your contacts and networks!

In solidarity,

Laurel Mitchell

Miss G__ Project Co-Coordinator

PS More information and recent updates can be found at

Western Students Up in Arms After Campus Newspaper “Spoofs” the Rape of Student Activist

LONDON, ON – April 8, 2007 – Many students at the University of

Western Ontario are up in arms about an article published on March

30th by the daily campus newspaper, The Gazette, as part of its annual

Spoof Issue. The article depicts the London police chief (who is

explicitly named) dragging a prominent member of the UWO Women’s

Issues Network (WIN), depicted under the pseudonym “Jennifer Ostrich,”

into an alley to rape her to “teach [her] a lesson.”

The article, titled “Labia Majora Carnage,” was published

anonymously under the pseudonym, “Xavier.”

Students angry and offended by the article have been mobilizing

through letter writing campaigns to The Gazette Editor-in-Chief Ian

Van Den Hurk, the university, and the media, and through a protest

held on campus last Thursday.

Some students have also written to Police Chief Murray Faulkner to

ask him to make a public statement about his portrayal in the article

and his stance on violence against women. Faulkner couldn’t be reached

for comment.

Most students believe “Jennifer Ostrich” to be a caricature of

Jenna Owsianik, chair of the Western chapter of the feminist group The

Miss G__ Project and an active member of WIN. She has also been vocal

about criticizing The Gazette, and in the October issue of the

Grapevine (another campus publication at Western), Owsianik wrote

about what she sees as The Gazette’s tradition of “negative sexual

stereotypes and sexist attitudes” — and cataloged the offenses.

In addition to being angry and upset, Owsianik is disappointed that

this is the response to her criticisms and to the challenge she issued

to The Gazette and all student journalists in the Grapevine article

“to be more responsible.” Though she’s not terribly surprised – The

Gazette has been brushing off her criticisms and making fun of her and

other WIN members all year – the severity and violence of this article

still shocked and terrified her.

“I feel like I was raped by that article,” Owsianik said candidly.

The article also satirizes “Katie Conservative,” a pretty clear

allusion to WIN Internal Relations Manager and active UWO Conservative

Association member Kathryn Mitrow, who says that she is “appalled and

ashamed” by The Gazette’s actions.

In a letter to the editor published in the April 5 edition of The

Gazette, graduate student Corey Katz takes issue with the Spoof

Issue’s jokes about rape, violence against women and homosexuality.

“These jokes are used every day to justify violence against women and

queer people. How many jokes like these has someone read, heard,

laughed at or told before they’re able to overcome their conscience

enough to rape or assault someone?”

Recent UWO alumna and Miss G__ Project Co-Coordinator Sheetal Rawal

also thinks that the targeting of Owsianik in this article is a way to

silence activism about women’s issues on Western’s campus.

“For The Gazette to level a threat of rape at a student activist on

campus, one who has had the courage to speak out against the shocking

misogyny, homophobia, racism in the paper, as away to “teach [her] a

lesson,” is highly irresponsible of a campus newspaper and absolutely

unacceptable,” Rawal said. “This is hate speech.”

Rawal also said that she is “embarrassed” that, between this and

other events like the “Saugeen Stripper” issue last year, Western is

coming to known for its rape culture. “I refuse to allow for my degree

to read “Rapist University,”” she said.

Not all students are upset about it though, and even some of those who

are continue defend The Gazette’s right to publish articles like this

under freedom of speech.

“Freedom of speech is a fundamental pillar of our society, even if

we don’t like it,” Western student Noah Desjardins wrote on the

discussion board of a Facebook group created around this issue. “Any

restrcitions placed on it lead to a slippery slope of censorship.”

Western student Fiona Martin thinks that freedom of speech should

have its limits though.

“The debate continues on whether jokes against feminism are funny.

Some people think they are, some don’t. What is not funny is the

verbal attack against specific people that The Gazette article made.

That is hate speech,” she wrote on the discussion board.

So far, The Gazette’s only official response to the backlash from

the Spoof Issue has been “get over yourself.” In an April 4 editorial

they defend the “satire” of the issue, writing that those offended

should “know a joke when they see one.”

However, several students have been demanding more extreme action,

including calling for Van Den Hurk’s resign and the withdrawal of

student funding (through the University Students’ Council) to The


Student Kate Barthes suggests that The Gazette’s funding be revoked

for one year, to match the USC’s actions against the Society for

Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) when it was accused of hate speech

last year.

Throughout all this, Owsianik has been told by several people to

‘take a joke.’

“That article was about me getting raped and liking it,” she said.

“When you live your life in my body and experience the violence that

my body has felt, then you can tell me if satirical intention merits a

diffused reaction,” she said.

Controversy is continuing to dog the University of Western Ontario’s

student run newspaper The Gazette

LONDON,ON. April 9,2007 – Each year the University of Western

Ontario’s student newspaper, The Gazette, publishes a spoof edition

which is released on April 1st. This years’ edition targeted women,

and in particular, groups who advocate women’s issues on campus.

The article in question, titled “Labia Majora Carnage”

depicts a supposedly satirical portrayal of the Take Back the Night

rally. The author, who refuses to be identified, laces this ‘humorous’

article with vulgar depictions of women and sexually suggestive

themes. In it, known UWO activists are alluded to in morphed


Current London Police Services Chief Murray Faulkiner

is named in the article. Chief Faulkiner is described “…greasing his

nightstick”. The author adds: “He [Chief Faulkiner] grabbed the

loudspeaker from Ostrich’s wild vagina and took it into a dark alley

to teach it a lesson.”

The Gazette Editor-in-Chief, Ian Van Den Hurk, responded

citing Freedom of Speech and re enforced that the article was intended

to be humorous and instead of apologizing he called the complaintifs

“convoluted” and told them to “get-over” themselves.

Outraged students have taken several steps to air their

frustration with the student-funded Gazette’s article that was neither

factual, newsworthy, nor relevant to the Gazette’s mandate.

“Ian Van Den Hurk must be reminded that the Gazette is

published and supported with student fees appropriated by the UWO

University Students’ Council,” said Kate Bartz, former President of

the Women’s Studies Student Council.

Kathryn Mitrow, who is a member of the Women’s Issues

Network at UWO stated:

“Such an attack and slanderous piece of writing has no place

appearing in a newspaper funded by and supported by students.”

Van Den Hurk’s personal web-blog featuring many sexualized

themes can be viewed at:

CD now blogging!

I see that Canadian Dimension magazine has taken up blogging with an International Women’s Day post by Dr. Joyce Green who teaches in the Political Science department at the University of Regina.

Status of Women is now prohibited from funding work that can be considered “political advocacy.” That’s rich. The Conservatives will consent to funding shelters for battered women, but not organizations advocating for an end to violence against women and children. We can bind the wounds but not question the structures and processes that wound in the first place.

A hearty “Welcome to the Blogosphere” to the radicals at CD!

Police Brutality: IWD March, Montreal

from the inbox:

For Immediate Release

Montreal 9 March 2007
Police brutality mars Women’s Day Celebration in Montreal
Police Assault women at International Women’s Day March

Yesterday, as Montrealers, along with many around the world celebrated
International Women’s Day – the event was marred by police brutality in
which three young women were assaulted, injured and traumatized. Among the
issues that were brought up during the speeches at Montreal’s women’s day
march was that in Iran women were prevented from celebrating international
women’s day. And women in Pakistan were also attacked yesterday in a
women’s day event. Yesterday’s events make ensure Montreal shares this

Marchers celebrating International Women’s Day had walked from Place
Emilie Gamelin (Berri Square) to Phillips Square, along Ste-Catherine
Street. After speeches they made their way back to Berri Square. The
police made an announcement asking people to walk on the sidewalk. Jaggi
Singh, who had been one of many male supporters among the 200 strong
celebrating international women’s day moved onto the sidewalk. The others
continued marching in the street. Police officers began to rush towards
Singh, still walking on the sidewalk. They grabbed him and threw him
against a nearby police car.

Other marchers gathered around the car out of concern for the violent way
in which police were intervening. Police began hitting and pushing people
indiscriminately. Several people were knocked to the ground with batons
and night sticks. Emma Strople, a 17 year old marcher, was hit in the
chest with the end of a night stick and thrown to the ground, by an
officer later identified as Doyon. Her ribs were bruised, she was winded,
trembling from shock and her knee was cut open enough that the blood
seeped through her jeans. Two other women were also injured – one woman’s
lips and mouth were swollen and bleeding, from being punched in the face
by a police officer; another left with cuts on her knee and stomach. The
police showed a total disregard for the injuries mounting around them.
They placed Jaggi Singh in the police car and began to leave. The
marchers that remained left by Berri Metro.

The 8th March Committee of Women of Diverse Origins, one of the key groups
involved in the march strongly denounces last night’s police brutality
yesterday and the arrest of Singh. Are we to go back to the time when
women in Canada were not considered ‘persons’? When women were to be seen
and not heard? In Quebec today on the eve of an election we have seen
how violence against women is still something that is trivialized,
including by those that seek to represent us in the democratic system.
Yesterday’s police attack on women and their allies proves that even
those who are supposed to be the guardians of the law and ensure gender
equality, see women as people to be controlled with the threat and the use
of violence. Women, as we struggle for equality are facing a backlash. How
can we feel safe when the police themselves exhibit the violence that is
endemic to patriarchy?

More than ever the police brutality of yesterday demonstrates that we
have a long way to go; that women’s struggles for equality that have
always linked to improving the lives of our families and communities,
ensuring democratic processes of equality and participation of ALL in the
political process are constantly BLOCKADED by the state and its
representatives. How can women seek assistance against the violence in
their lives when those entrusted with their safekeeping are perpetrators
of brutality and violence?

Last night’s police violence is shameful and fearful. We demand that the
City of Montreal and the government of Quebec immediately investigate the
assaults and arrest of yesterday and that women, our allies and
supporters feel safe and free to work in support of equality and

Info: Dolores Chew 514-885-5976


U.S.-trained Iraqi Police Rape Women

February 23, 2007

Armed, Trained and Funded by the US
Iraqi Police Commit Rapes

The international news media is flooded with images of a woman in a
pink headscarf recounting a shattering experience of rape by members
of the Iraqi National Police. Most of the coverage has focused on her
taboo-breaking decision to speak publicly about the assault, but has
ignored the context for understanding-and combating-sexual violence by
Iraqi security forces.

As Iraqi women's organizations have documented, sexualized torture is
a routine horror in Iraqi jails. While this woman may be the first
Iraqi rape survivor to appear on television, she is hardly the first
to accuse the Iraqi National Police of sexual assault. At least nine
Iraqi organizations (including Women's Will, Occupation Watch, the
Women's Rights Association , the Iraqi League, the Iraqi National
Association of Human Rights, the Human Rights' Voice of Freedom, the
Association of Muslim Scholars, the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Iraqi
National Media and Culture Organization) as well as Amnesty
International, the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, and the Brussels
Tribunal have documented the sexualized torture of Iraqi women while
in police custody. And as this case attests, sexual violence is woven
into the fabric of the civil war now raging across Iraq. According to
Iraqi human rights advocate and writer Haifa Zangana, the first
question asked of female detainees in Iraq is, "Are you Sunni or
Shia?" The second is, "Are you a virgin?"

Next week, MADRE, an international women's human rights organization,
will release a report that documents the widespread use of rape and
other forms of torture against women detainees in Iraq by US and Iraqi
forces.* The report includes testimonies of numerous rape survivors,
collected by the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI). Since
November 2005, OWFI has conducted a Women's Prison Watch project and
has found that, "Torture and rape are common procedure of
investigation in police stations run by the militias affiliated with
the government, mostly the Mahdi and Badr militias," according to
their summer 2006 report.

These are the same sectarian Shiite militias that are prosecuting
Iraq's civil war, the same militias that stepped into the power vacuum
created by the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and the same militias
that have been systematically attacking women in their bid to
establish an Islamist theocracy. Since 2003, the political leadership
of these militias has been handed control of the Iraqi state by the
US, while the militants themselves have waged a campaign of
assassinations, rapes, abductions, beheadings, acid attacks, and
public beatings targeting women-particularly women who pose a
challenge to the project of turning Iraq into a theocracy. As the
occupying power in Iraq, the US was obligated under the Hague and
Geneva Conventions to provide security to Iraqi civilians, including
protection from gender-based violence. But the US military,
preoccupied with battling the Iraqi insurgency, simply ignored the
reign of terror that Islamist militias have imposed on women.

By early 2005, as the "cakewalk" envisioned by US war planners
devolved into the quagmire that has become the Iraq War, the US began
to cultivate Shiite militias to help battle the Sunni-led insurgency.
According to Newsweek, the plan was dubbed the "Salvador Option,"
recalling the Reagan Administration's use of militias to bolster
right-wing regimes in 1980s Central America. But by late 2005, once
the Iraqi militias had become notorious as thugs and sectarian death
squads, we stopped hearing so much about the military training that
these groups had received under the command of Colonel James Steele
during John Negroponte's stint as US Ambassador to Iraq.

Neither have we heard about how the US allowed the government it
installed in Baghdad to hand control of the country's security forces
to the militias. Today, the Mahdi Army controls the police forces of
Baghdad and Basra , Iraq's two largest cities. The Badr Brigade is
headquartered in Iraq's Ministry of Interior, which directs the
country's national police, intelligence, and paramilitary units. And
the United Nations special investigator on torture is reporting that
torture in Iraq is worse now than under Saddam Hussein.

It's no surprise that we're hearing allegations of rape against the
Iraqi National Police, considering who trained them. DynCorp, the
private contractor that the Bush Administration hired to prepare
Iraq's new police force for duty, has an ugly record of violence
against women. The company was contracted by the federal government in
the 1990s to train police in the Balkans. DynCorp employees were found
to have systematically committed sex crimes against women, including
"owning" young women as slaves. One DynCorp site supervisor videotaped
himself raping two women. Despite strong evidence against them, the
contractors never faced criminal charges and are back on the federal

Contrary to its rhetoric and its international legal obligations, the
Bush Administration has refused to protect women's rights in Iraq. In
fact, it has decisively traded women's rights for cooperation from the
Islamists it has helped boost to power. Torture of women by police
recruits armed, trained, and funded with US tax dollars is one symptom
of this broader crisis.

*Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-based Violence and
the US War in Iraq will be available at after March 6,
2007. For more information about the report, please contact MADRE at or 212.627.0444.

Yifat Susskind is communications director of MADRE, an international
women's human rights organization. She is the author of a book on US
foreign policy and women's human rights and a report on US culpability
for violence against women in Iraq, both forthcoming.

A shorter version of this article originally ran on